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Bindweed flower
Learning to identify weeds is a rite of passage for every gardener.

Here’s our guide to some of the most common ones and how you can tackle them.

  • A satisfying task where you can transform the look of your front or back garden in a short space of time.
  • Keep your garden looking happy and healthy
  • An easy, repetitive and meditative task which can help you to calm your mind. Also great to do whilst listening to some music or a podcast!

Weeding is a great task to get the kids involved in. You can teach them how to identify weeds and how to remove them. This can allow them to feel they are contributing to the welfare of the garden without having to spend too much of their time.

Bindweed

Bindweed

This is the Terminator of the weed world. You can cut it back, chop it down and pull it out, but it just keeps coming back for more. And as the name suggests, it does an amazing job at wrapping itself around other plants and squeezing the life out of them. It grows fast too, takes nutrients from soil and is a perennial weed that any gardener cannot afford to ignore.

Ridding yourself of bindweed without resorting to chemicals will take time and effort. One method is to dig out every bit of its roots but be forensic because if you leave anything behind, it will be back. Another tactic is to cover and smother the plants and its roots for two years.

If that isn’t practical, you are left with methodically forking out any sign of the plant and eventually weakening it so that it gives up. But expect a long fight with this tenacious weed.

Dandelion

Dandelion

Unless you’re called Peter Rabbit, the sight of a dandelion won’t be a delight.

Not only do their fluffy ornamental heads self-seed with abandon, their tap roots go deep and will happily snap off if you try and pull them out without care.

Stop their spread by chopping off the flowers and then get the fork out to prize the root from your soil. If the fork method feels like too much hard work, there are tools that can make life easier.

Nettles

Nettle

Not many gloveless gardeners have escaped the sting of the nettle. It’s a foe that spreads through tough roots and upright stems and quickly forms intimidating clumps that can grow more than a metre high.

Stop them seeding in summer by cutting them down and then regain control by reaching for the spade out, and digging them out.

However, if you want to entice butterflies into your garden, nettles can help. Peacocks, Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshells use nettle patches to lay eggs.

Bramble

Bramble

With its spiky woody stems and extensive roots, the bramble can literally be a real pain. Unchecked it will grow quickly with its stems rooting into the soil. Turn your back on it and it will turn into a thicket.

Picking its fruit, blackberries, is great in a country hedgerow but if you want to stop its seed spreading in your garden, cut it down and dig it out before it gets that far.

Leave no trace of its roots as otherwise growth will restart. Be vigilant for seedlings.

Couch grass

Couch grass

Another weed on the most unwanted list, couch or twitch spreads by underground stems that form dense mats producing tall upright clumps.

This grass can be a choking hazard for other plants once it gets established, so ruthlessly remove it. Ensure all its white roots are lifted as anything left behind will see this problem perennial return. Check back a couple of weeks later for any regrowth and, if necessary, repeat the treatment.

When it comes to weeds, especially perennial ones, tackling them before they get established will save a lot of effort and frustration. Spring is the time for gardeners to go on the offensive because that’s when dormant weed seeds start coming to life.

One approach, which can be cathartic, is weeding them out by hand. Clearing a patch of weeds is a satisfying job and one that will reduce your weeding workload in the long run. An important weapon in the gardener’s armoury is the hoe, which if you keep it sharp will repay you handsomely.

Use it when the soil is dry and the sun is out to slice off young weed roots and leave them to shrivel up on the surface before clearing them. Acting early will stop them spreading seeds and cut your weeding time.

Covering bare soil with a mulch keeps weeds down. Aim for a layer of 5-10cm of compost or manure to form a thick cover that will deny any weedlings light.

You can change lives with gardening

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Rebecca H potting up Charlie Garner 2019 3